This is the second part of our Christmas cake bake.
Once your cake has been fed with brandy, it’s time to ice it. We’re using homemade marzipan and royal icing for a rough snow effect. If it’s your first time at making a Christmas cake, this way of icing is easier than trying to get a smooth surface with fondant icing, as marzipan or royal icing doesn’t have to be perfect. We’re also giving you a recipe for a generous amount of icing, as there’s nothing worse than having to scrimp and scrape the icing round the cake, particularly if you’re a novice. If there’s any left in the bowl, it’s pretty good eaten off the spoon!
If you don’t like marzipan and icing, then you can decorate your cake with glacé fruit and nuts: warm 4 tbsp brandy with 2 tbsp apricot jam in a small pan, brush a little over the top of the cake then decorate with your fruit and nuts. Brush the rest of the glaze over the top to preserve it.
for the marzipan:
350g ground almonds
175g golden caster sugar
175g icing sugar, plus more for dusting
a few drops almond extract
a squeeze of lemon juice, about 1 tsp
2 egg whites from medium eggs (if you’re unsure about the size, weigh the whites, you need about 60g)
3 tbsp apricot jam
for the icing:
4 egg whites
1 kg icing sugar, sifted
1-2 tsp glycerine (glycerol), this is different to liquid glucose, so check the label (this is optional and makes the icing softer so add it according to your preference)
To make the marzipan, put the ground almonds and caster sugar in a large bowl. Using a sieve (apparently metal ones can taint the sugar, but I’ve never had that problem), sift in the icing sugar. Stir it all together. Lightly beat the egg whites and add them along with the almond extract, and lemon juice. Beat the mixture together with a wooden spoon until you have a smooth paste. It should be soft but quite firm. Dust some icing sugar onto your work surface. Using your hands, lightly knead it until it’s smooth. Try to keep your hands cool and don’t over knead it or the paste will be too oily. Make it into a ball, wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for 30 mins. Warm the apricot jam in a small pan. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the cake all over to coat it with the jam (you might want to sieve the jam if it’s particularly lumpy). Take the marzipan out of the fridge. Unwrap it and cut about 1/3 off it. Dust your work surface and rolling pin with icing sugar and roll the smaller piece until you have a circle the size of the top of the cake (use your Christmas cake tin as a template to cut around if you like). Roll it over the cake and press it down. Roll out the rest of the marzipan into oblong strips, the width of the sides, and press them on, using your fingers to join any strips and the top together. You can use your rolling pin to smooth the joins too. Once the marzipan has covered the cake, ideally cover it and leave it for a few days to dry out a bit, to stop the almond oil leaking into the icing and discolouring it (don’t worry too much if you’re making it all a bit last minute, you’ll probably be eating it before you have to worry about that!) To ice it, lightly beat the egg whites in a large bowl. Add half the icing sugar and stir well until it’s smooth and runny. Add the glycerine if using, then the rest of the sugar, in large spoonfuls, stirring well to incorporate each time. Keep beating until the mixture forms smooth, firm peaks. Use a palette knife to spread the icing all over the cake, then to spike up the icing. Leave it to firm up, then cover and keep in a cool place until needed. Tacky or classy decorations, up to you! Happy Christmas!